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Let's assume that The use of cars is so prevalent that we cannot imagine life without them is a good sentence.

My question is whether We cannot image life without cars, so prevalent is their use is a correct sentence and equivalent to the first one.

I feel like it is, but I cannot name the grammatical usage involved.

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    Try rephrasing it: "We cannot image life without cars, their usage is so vast." This is a comma splice therefore an invalid construction. To fix it, merely insert a semi-colon in place of the comma. – user180089 Jul 19 '16 at 15:13
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    Or another solution: replace is with being, thus making the independent clause into a dependent one: 'We cannot image life without cars, their usage being so vast' or 'We cannot image life without cars, so vast being their usage' – user180089 Jul 19 '16 at 15:19
  • No, I disagree with @V0ight. The inversion makes this a subordinate clause, so it is perfectly acceptable (and well established as a literary form). – Colin Fine Jul 19 '16 at 15:51
  • @Colin Fine ~ How exactly is 'so prevalent is their use' a subordinate clause? It's a complete sentence in its own right. – user180089 Jul 19 '16 at 16:27
  • @V0ight It's subordinate by virtue of its function in the larger construction. I'd say it was a reason adjunct (adverbial) – BillJ Jul 19 '16 at 16:35
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This article on inversion, from Perfect English Grammar.com [corrected and modified], explains the construction and the transformation involved:

4: We use inversion after 'so + adjective' where later followed by 'that':

So beautiful was the girl that nobody could talk of anything else. (Normal sentence: the girl was so beautiful that nobody could talk of anything else.)

So delicious was the food that we ate every last bite. (Normal sentence: the food was so delicious that we ate every last bite.)

The inverted variants are rather old-fashioned or of a literary register. Equally so is the further re-ordering:

So prevalent is the use of cars that we cannot imagine life without them.

We cannot image life without cars, so prevalent is their use.

The terminal positioning of the clause giving the reason is acceptable; here is an example from Belloc (The Path to Rome - Page 245):

Above the soft bed which the hay made, a square window, unglazed, gave upon the southern night; the mist hardly drifted in or past it, so still was the air.

  • ........................addressed. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 19 '16 at 15:36

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